Seventeen is my lucky number. And my age since yesterday. It’s funny, really. I would’ve thought that turning seventeen would let my dad and grandmother know that I’m almost an adult now and that I can take care of myself. What the hell was I thinking?
You see, my family is very different than most. I’ve never known my mom, since neither Dad nor Grams ever talks about her, and we don’t have any pictures of her on the walls. Anywhere. I think she’s dead but who cares what I think around here? I’m always treated differently than most kids my age would be, but maybe it’s because I’m “special,” as my father puts it. That’s total bull in my opinion but hey. I’ve been through a lot more than the normal human would ever care to notice, and anyway, no one at school has the decency or courage to even come and talk to me. I don’t blame them.
But then there’s Damien.
Damien’s been my best friend since I was nine. He moved here, to California, eight years ago from Texas, which would make him ten at the time. We’ve done everything together for as long as I can remember. Even now we’re inseparable. We began having movie nights—Disney classics and Doritos and Oreos—every Wednesday at my house right after my twelfth birthday. Soccer games after school in Damien’s backyard since we were sophomores; those turned into basketball games, and then ultimate Frisbee, even though it was just the two of us. We always had lunch with Grams on Saturdays, and on Sundays I went to his house for brunch. Damien’s the type of guy that would go all the way for a girl, even if they weren’t romantically involved. For instance, he actually punched my boyfriend out when the douche broke up with me the summer before our senior year.
He’s just that freaking amazing. He’s my other half; I’m the milk and he’s the cookie, or is he the peanut butter and I’m the…jelly?
I came out into the bright morning sun, the dew tickling my bare feet as I walked through the grass and down to the docks. There was a light breeze this cool summer morning. It was early July, and since my high school career was done (I had skipped a grade when I was ten) I had woken up bright and early, around three 3 o’clock A.M, to watch the sun rise every day. I loved it near the water. Always have. But today, I woke up six hours late.
I shrugged it off, finally starting to smell eggs cooking from the house. I heard Grams call through the screen door, “Piper, c’mon dear, time for breakfast.”
I sighed and held my rumbling belly. “It’s about time. I’m starving.” But then again, I did sleep like a rock. I would have normally eaten around five and then had an early lunch. I grinned and started walking back toward the house.
“That was great, Grams! The best all summer, hands down.”
The eggs had been cooked just right; the toast was now at perfection, and the orange juice, well, that was always good.
“Thank you,” Grams said as she stuffed more food into her mouth. You could always tell if something Grams had cooked was good because she’s always the last one at the table with her second and third helpings piled high onto her plate.
“So, you have anything planned for today?” Grams mumbled between her noisy chewing.
“I wanted to go to the movies today. Why?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, nothing, just being nosy,” she replied.
I smiled at her.
With the dishes done, I started towards the phone. Just as I placed my hand on the receiver, the phone rang its shrill and annoying tone. I picked it up and said, “Hello?” surprised at the timing.
“Hey, Piper.” It was Damien.
“Oh, I was just about to call you.”
“Hm. That’s funny. Maybe we’re going to ask each other the same questions.”
“Oh, uh…” He caught me off guard. I had to clear my throat. “Why don’t you go first?” I asked.
“Okay, well, there’s a movie playing downtown, you know, the one with the human and the vampires? Um, what’s it called—”
“Yeah. Today is the big opening of it in the movies.”
“Yup. So, I was wondering if you wanted to go with me, since you never stop talking about the books, and, well, it looks interesting. You up for it?”
He hurriedly spoke so that I could barely make out what he’d said.
“Totally! Actually, I was about to ask you the same question.” Wow. That’s weird. “Honestly, I didn’t know you liked that kind of stuff. What time is it playing?”
“At four this afternoon. I can pick you up if you want.”
My face flushed. “Alright,” I said. Weird. What was with me today?
“Okay. So I’ll see you around four-ish,” he said. I could hear the smile in his voice.
“Bye. Oh, wait! I forgot to ask you something.”
He waited quietly on the other end.
But I chickened out. “Never mind,” I said, shaking my head. “It was something about the books, so you wouldn’t know it. I forgot that you never read them.”
There was a slight pause and for a few seconds, all I could hear was Damien’s increased breathing on the other line. I counted to fifteen in my head before I heard his whisper.
“Actually, I have.”
“Oh, really? You never told me—” But I was cut off with a quick "See you later" as he hung his phone up.
“Aw, Grams! What did I do this time?” I stalked into my room and spun around. The heat was rising; I could feel it. I clenched my hands together into two tight fists, willing the demon not to awaken.
“I don’t know dear, but your father commanded me to put you up here. And whatever it was that you did, it must’ve been pretty bad for him to get all upset like that,” she said.
Breathe, I told myself, breathe. I’m going to catch this house on fire.
Without relaxing my posture, I turned away from Grams and jumped nimbly onto my three-metal-bar seat in my room and crossed my arms. “Grams,” I said threw my teeth, “he’s the Devil for crying out loud. He gets upset over burning toast!”
The fire exploded with a loud crack and I released it gratefully, hoping to scare Grams into leaving me alone. My flaming red hair swirled around me in a halo effect. I sat there fuming while Grams just looked at me. I mean, what does Father have against me anyway? I never DO anything! Maybe it’s just because I’m the daughter of the Devil and not the son of the Devil!
I crossed my arms tightly across my chest. Grams sighed and walked out of my room.
“Now wait a minute, young lady. Since when do you go on a date without telling me?” Grams was following me through the house with her hands on her hips, a smile threatening to overpower her control.
I grumbled and rolled my eyes. “Grams! It’s not a date. And besides, you know who I’m going with.”
“Yes, I know you’ve been friends for a while—”
“A while? It’s been eight years.”
I hated it when she made a big deal out of my problems. And it wasn’t even a problem, per se. I mean, c’mon. Since when did she care who I was friends with or who I dated? She never looked into my personal life before. Why should hanging out with Damien be so different?
“All whatnot.” She waved her hand dismissively. “You’ve been friends for eight years but he barely comes over to visit anymore. You’re always at his house. How do I know he’s good enough for you? How do I know he’s not—?”
I lost it there.
“Good enough for me?” My hands flew into the air. “Grams, I’m not marrying him! I’m only seventeen! You would think I was going on a date with him, from the way you’re talking. I’m just going to see a movie with my best friend and hanging out. That’s it. Will you give it a rest already?”
And with that I turned, grabbed some money out of the dry sink and said heatedly, “I won’t stay out late. I’ll be home around six or seven, depending on where we go after the movie.”
Without even looking back at her, I slammed the door behind me.
It took me a minute to get a grip on myself, but when I turned away from the door I found Damien sitting in his car playing air guitar. His 1965 sky blue Ford Mustang convertible had the black top down. I stood on my porch for a moment, trying to let my anger and embarrassment fizzle out on its own, when he looked at me. His eyebrows furrowed as I stared back at him. I probably looked like I was about to throw something heavy at him or something. I guess I really didn’t have as much control on my emotions as I would have liked.
I hadn’t realized that my face was still in a pout until he said, “Piper, are you all right?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Fine,” I said. I took one final deep breath and walked down the steps.
“Are you sure?” He had gotten out of his car and walked over to the passenger side and opened the door for me.
“Yeah. Perfect. Grams is just being nosy. I’ll get over it.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw him shrug. He climbed in on his side, shut the door and cranked his music louder.
“So, you ready for the movie?” he said as he backed out of my driveway.
“Yeah! It looks really good. Are you sure—”
“I know what the movie’s about because I’ve read the books. I told you that already.” His hands tightened around the steering wheel.
“Oh,” I mumbled. He sighed and rolled his eyes.
I figured I’d better let it drop. Whatever it was that was bothering him about those books was obviously not up for discussion and I didn’t want to ruin anything.
We listened to some crazy blaring rock band the whole ride there. Apparently, as Damien told me, the concerts they give have huge strobe lights and laser effects that can make your head spin. We didn’t really talk that much but I laughed out loud a few times when Damien tried to sing the chorus of one of the songs; I don’t think he realized that he’s slightly tone-deaf, which made it even funnier.
“Piper, where do you want me to park?” Damien asked as he drove into the parking lot.
“I don’t care, just don’t park too far, I don’t want to waste all my energy by walking,” I muttered, sarcastically of course.
He chuckled and a grin spread across his face. He ended up parking all the way at the very end of the theater’s parking lot. When he’d put his car in park, I glared at him. I choked on a laugh when he asked, “What?”
“Wow. That was amazing,” I said, my eyes open and completely bugging. I was so happy. Movies always do that to me—make me either super excited or happy or sad and unbelieving, whatever emotion was strongest in the plotline. They take me to another world, another dimension, and help me forget my life for a time.
Walking in the now-drenching heat, sweat was forming on my forehead.
We rounded a corner of the theater building and my foot got caught on the sidewalk. My head came dangerously close to the brick of the building before I suddenly stopped, mid air, at an angle. Damien’s strong arm pulled me back to an upright position.
“You good?” he asked, smirking.
“Other than having two left feet, yeah, thanks. My head would be a pancake if you hadn’t caught me,” I said.
We were giggling as we started to walk again, sidestepping around the raised walkway.
“So, did you like the movie?” Damien asked me. I just gaped at him.
“Do I even have to—”
“Say anything? No, I was kidding. I can tell just by your lack of focus that you can’t even walk without daydreaming and almost falling on your face,” he said.
I scowled a little. “Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
We had walked all the way across the parking lot before he said anything else. He was walking so close to me now that I could feel the heat of his body on my hand. I only slightly wondered why.
At his car, still being distracted by its awesomeness even after three years, I didn’t notice him stop and stare at me. I only looked at him when his fingers laced into mine; I looked down. The familiar heat of a blush rose up my cheeks.
“Piper,” Damien whispered. I looked up at him. Something hidden behind the blue of his eyes made me troubled.
Questions automatically formed in my head, but before I could voice them he had let go of my hand and opened my door.
Holy crap. What just happened? I thought.
“I should get you home,” he said as he climbed in and shut his door. He gritted his teeth and gripped the steering wheel, twice in the same night.
“What’s up, man?” I asked, weirded-out by his sudden change in mood.
“Nothing,” he said. His eyes never left the wheel as he put his key in the ignition.
“Do you want me to come inside when we get there?”
“I have things to do.”
I took that as a NO.